We have a problem.
Earlier this month, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released the 2016 New Graduate Salary Calculator Worksheet. This worksheet was created to allow users to “calculate average starting salaries for different segments of the profession in various locations. It takes into consideration variables such as practice type (private/industry/government/etc.), specialty, plans for continued education, expected work hours, geographic location, debt load, and gender to provide a realistic snapshot of what the average salary would be for each specific situation.”
Sounds pretty great, right? Well, have a look at the first few steps.
That’s right. If you’re a woman and you’d like to estimate your salary, one of the first things you should do is subtract $2,400 from what your male counterparts earn. If you think this sounds like blatant wage discrimination based on gender, you’re not alone, and you’re right. Given that all new graduates have the same experience level (they’re brand new), track record (they haven’t seen an appointment yet) and the worksheet is geared toward calculating salary for a 45-hour work week, I think this shows clear evidence of pay inequality in our industry.
As the worksheet gained interest in the veterinary community, fury over the gender divide it highlights has erupted, and rightfully so. This is a disparity that needs to be swiftly investigated and corrected. But where should our outrage be focused?
Many have aimed their frustration squarely at the AVMA. If the stated purpose of the calculator was to use historical data to give new graduates the most accurate estimation of what salary they can expect upon graduation based on that data, then I don’t think we ought to be angry at the AVMA for pointing out the disparities of the past and present. After all, acting like a wage gap doesn’t exist doesn’t help anyone correct the problem. Unfortunately, the stated purpose of the worksheet is ”to provide you a starting point for your own salary negotiation.” That implies that negotiations happening today about the salaries of tomorrow should accept and begin with the gender discrimination of yesterday.
No. I refuse to accept the notion that my female colleagues should start their salary negotiation $2,400 below where I start mine for no reason other than that I’m male and they’re female. This suggestion perpetuates inequities and encourages veterinarians to accept them as the norm.
We should be upset at the AVMA for this suggestion. They should apologize and either remove the gender component to where salary negotiations should begin or leave it in as a reflection of historical data but call attention to the fact that we can and should be working together to change this reality. Then, after they make these corrections, we need to move on. I don’t mean that we need to abandon the issue (or the AVMA). I mean that we need to actually address this problem.
The AVMA made a mistake in presenting this information, but they did not cause the gender inequality their worksheet made obvious, nor can they fix it. They’ve simply told us what we all suspect but don’t want to hear.
Gender pay inequality is not about the AVMA. It’s about you and me and our colleagues. Veterinary salaries are generally determined when two veterinarians sit across from each other and come to a decision. We are both the employers and the employees in this scenario. We are the ones who determine what veterinarians are worth and whether their gender matters. This is on us to fix.
Before you click away, take one more look at the worksheet above.
We have a problem.